Is a Woman’s Long Hair Her Covering?

The Objection: The Scriptures tell us that women must pray & prophesy covered. This should not be understood as an artificial covering on top of her hair since 1 Corinthians 11:15 states that a womans covering is her long hair. The fact that men should have short hair and women have long hair was Paul’s point.

While we affirm that a woman’s long hair is her natural covering, we see two different coverings being talked about in this chapter. One of them is a womans long hair which is natural (v. 14-15), permanent  and a glory to her (v. 15). The other would be a fabric covering which is artificial, removable (v. 5) and a symbol of authority (v. 10).

Instead of a Covering?

Support for long hair as the only covering comes from verse 15, “For her hair is given to her for a covering.” Those advocating this position argue that the Greek word “anti” (translated “for”) means “in place of”. They would understand this passage as saying: “her hair is given to her [in place of / instead of] a covering”.

On this point Dr. Thomas Schreiner (Professor of New Testament Interpretation, SBTS) notes,

“The preposition anti in 11:15 need not refer to substitution. It can also indicate equivalence. The latter makes better sense in the context”.*

A.T. Robertson (Former Professor of New Testament Interpretation, SBTS)  further points out,

“It is not in the place of a veil, but answering to [anti], in the sense of [anti] in John 1:16, as a permanent endowment [dedotai], perfect passive indicative.*

The example that A.T. mentions is John 1:16 which says “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” (NASB). The section he’s referencing is at the end where it says, “charis anti charis” (translated: “grace upon grace” NASB or “grace for grace” KJV). This example shows that “anti” doesn’t only mean substitution as we haven’t received “grace instead of grace”.

Short Hair being Cut Short

The fact that Paul only commands covering for certain times (v. 4-5) hints that he has a removable covering in mind. Additionally, if long hair were the only covering mentioned in this chapter then there’s a major problem with verse 6.

Let me show you what I mean.

If long hair were the same as being covered according to Paul, what would be being uncovered? It would mean having short hair, right? The opposite of covered is uncovered and the opposite of long hair is short hair. So if that’s what Paul had in mind, let’s do some word replacement in verse 6. Where we see the word “cover her head”, let’s replace that with “have long hair”.

For if a woman does not [have long hair], let her also have her hair cut off (v.6a NASB)

For if a wife will not [have long hair], then she should cut her hair short (v.6a ESV)

If you refuse to have long hair, you should cut your hair short? You’d already have short hair! This argument wouldn’t make sense.

Some then object to the ESV rendering of “cut short”. They would understand “cut off” (NASB) as a synonym for shaved making this argument less nonsensical. Paul’s argument would then be transformed into “if a woman has short hair, she should shave it all off”. The problem with this argument is “cut off” cannot mean shaved in this context.

The Greek word translated “cut off” is keirō. This word is used again later in this very same passage and it’s differentiated from “shaved” which is the Greek word xuraō.

Here’s what it says: “…disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off (keirō) or her head shaved (xuraō)…”. Did you catch it? He said “or” shaved. So while “cut off” (keirō) can be used to describe a shaved head, Paul couldn’t have had this in mind here*. If we were to understand it that way his argument becomes ”…disgraceful for a woman to have her hair [shaved] or her head shaved…”. Shaved or shaved? Once again this just wouldn’t make sense.

Glory or Submission?

When Paul references a womans long hair as her covering he says this not to define what he had commanded in verses 4-13, but to support his argument as a reason for the wearing of an artificial covering  (see: Nature). We know it’s an argument because it’s phrased as a rhetorical question, “Does not even nature itself teach you…”. Furthermore he calls a woman’s long hair her glory, this further shows Paul has two coverings in mind as earlier he said it’s a symbol that she’s under authority (v. 10).

Greek scholar Dr. Daniel Wallace says about this point:

Verses 10 and 15 would have to be saying the same thing if long hair is the same as a head covering. But this can hardly be the case. In v 10, a woman is required to wear a ‘symbol of authority.’ Such a symbol represents her submission, not her glory…A literal translation would be: ‘it is a glory to her’ or ‘a glory accruing to her,’ or ‘to her advantage.’ Surely this is not the point of v 10!*

History’s Witness

Finally, the fact that the church unanimously understood Paul to mean an artificial covering until recent times is worthy of mention. Tertullian (160 – 215 AD), writing only 150 years after Paul wrote 1 Corinthians said that the church in Corinth was still practicing veiling in his day. He said, “So, too, did the Corinthians themselves understand him. In fact, at this day the Corinthians do veil their virgins. What the apostles taught, their disciples approve.”* Hippolytus (170 – 236 AD) writing around the same time said “…let all the women have their heads covered with an opaque cloth…”.*

So a woman’s natural covering is her long hair which is her glory. However, when she is “praying and prophesying” she is also to wear an artificial covering to cover that glory, as a symbol that she’s under authority (v. 10).

  • Alisha Jackson

    Very good article. I always tell people I have to cover my two glories:) The top of my head(representing man) and my hair which is another glory I have:) Satan was a covering cherubim but he didn’t want to cover himself.God says he will not share His glory. No wander why Satan hates when we cover, it is the opposite of rebellion it is submission:)

    Ezekiel 28:14Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.

    Isaiah 42:8 I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.

  • http://servingwithjoy.wordpress.com/ Rhoda Newton

    Excellent!

  • Shannon Ratcliffe

    Excellent – I wish I’d had this article to show a pastor who took great offence to my covering in church. I was so bullied that I stopped – but the Holy Spirit has been picking at me that I should be in obedience. I think I will print this off a few times and have it on hand when I go to church (a new church) this Sunday WITH my headcovering back in place. Thank you for empowering and encouraging!

    • Melissa Lovesthelord Riley

      Keep wearing it!

  • Garrett Martin

    Thank you for another great article. I find Alisha’s comment on rebellion intriguing. I am part of a Biblical counseling center who’s main clientele are the Anabaptist people. We have see instances where after a sister has dealt with and resolved her rebellion she once again senses the need to be veiled. From a personal study note. I have found it intriguing that history reports a major rejection of woman being veiled in worship during the 30′s one of the first major American rebellion movements. It is my understanding that a spirit of rebellion plays a significant part in ones life when they reject the head covering after having understood and practiced it. I am still seeking to understand why and all of the spiritual elements behind it. Thank you Alisha for adding one more piece of the puzzle for me.

  • http://dreamingofperfect.weebly.com/ Hannah J

    1 Corinthians 11:15 clearly says that a woman’s long hair is given to her as her covering. I don’t understand why everyone needs to go back to the Greek/Hebrew for every little word to explain their interpretation of the Bible. The Bible was translated in English for a reason. The King James Bible is fully capable of providing us with every doctrine that God wants us to know. It says what it means and means what it says. If you read the Bible for what it says, you can NOT come to the conclusion that we need a hair covering of linen, wool, or any other type of fabric. God is not the author of confusion. Satan is. To say that women (with long hair) cannot be heard or go to heaven without a fabric covering on their head is legalistic to the core. Our long hair is given to us for a covering, we don’t need two.

    • Anna

      …interesting points…thought id like to touch on a few if thats ok…
      1st i think its good to go back to the greek/hebrew because yes the Bible is translated into english which means, while its very reliable, there are still different word choices at times and so sometimes it helps our understanding to know the different ones, as well as what it meant to the people in that time…
      second the KJV Bible is not a very good translation as far as translations go…i mean it works but i do not/can not understand why so many people hold to that translation as if it were the be all end all of translations when in reality it is not. what is not well known is that the KJV was translated with only 12 NT manuscripts and the oldest of them was from the 10th century…when the more recent versions (NIV, NKJV, ESV, NAS, etc…) were translated the groups/scholars had thousands of manuscripts and some that dated back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries, giving a much clearer and more accurate picture of the Word of God in my opinion.
      I feel like the points in this article were very well done and so i will not attempt to remake them…but i did not see anything in the article about women not being able to go to heaven because of a covering…not everything we do or do not do is done/not done for salvation…salvation and our passage into Gods kingdom/heaven is by grace through faith …if a woman wears a head covering it is not to gain salvation, but to be pleasing to God… it is simply doing what we believe to be right and Scriptural…
      ive enjoyed reading the article and the posts! =)

      • http://dreamingofperfect.weebly.com/ Hannah J

        Older manuscripts don’t equal reliable manuscripts. The Sinaiticus is a manuscript from the 300s, it is used in many of the modern Bibles as a main underlying text(NIV, ESV, etc.), but it has many misspellings and was found literally in a trashcan to be burned.

        You can hear a great audio about the validity of the KJV Bible(very sourced!) here: http://www.contendingfortruth.com/?p=1090 That’s part 1 of 5, just search KJV in the search bar on the right to find the others.

        I don’t think that the article did a good job at saying how 1 Corinthians 11:15 doesn’t negate us wearing a headcovering. I think that it is rather clear, “…for her hair is given her for a covering.” I don’t think that anyone can misunderstand that. You can’t ignore this scripture. Even the flawed newer translations say much of the same, “For long hair is given to her as a covering.”(NIV). I don’t understand how some think that we should all be wearing another covering other than our long hair. Many women look down upon those who don’t, just as this site seems to be doing…. And, they do so without cause.

        • David Pendleton

          “Many women look down upon those who don’t [wear a piece of fabric on their heads], just as this site seems to be doing… And, they do so without cause.”

          Amen, Amen, Amen.

          I suspect, though, that the women on this site who do this will adamantly deny it.

          “Oh Hannah,” I suspect they’ll say, “I don’t look down on you at all! I don’t judge you!” Blah, blah, blah.

          At the same time they make it QUITE clear that they believe that you are living in complete disobedience to God and that you are clearly and definitely in SIN. One of the commenters on this site put women who don’t wear a piece of fabric on their heads in the same category as prostitutes! Some of them would tell you that they could not welcome you into their fellowship unless you wear a piece of fabric on your head. All the while they continue to say to you, “But I don’t look down on you, dear sweet Hannah; I don’t judge you.”

          They SAY that they don’t look down on you, but their actions betray their words. I agree with you, Hannah. Virtually every woman that covers with a piece of fabric looks down on you. She is simply lying if she tries to deny that.

          • Anna

            david- i find it interesting that while you are talking about the judgmental nature of others you are yourself judging them for supposedly being “judgmental” …i also find it interesting that you sir are so keenly aware of all “head coverers” hearts and minds as to know that every single one of us would be lying if we said we were not judging others…what a wonder to have such insight as yourself into the thoughts of so many! why should i bother to express my opinions when you yourself have already assuredly done so… …your arrogance astounds me …

            Hannah-i agree with you that older does not mean better…however the main manuscripts used for the “modern” versions are manuscripts from the 4th and 5th centuries , but yes they certainly use the ones closest to the originals because they are actually quite reliable…also misspellings does not equal a bad manuscript…misspellings are neither meaningful nor viable variants and all manuscripts have some degree of variants, even the ones used in the KJV…..also as said before…there were only 12 used for KJV…not only do we still have most of those…but we have thousands more..and thousands of quotes from the early Church fathers …to figure out what was in the autographs (originals) they look at all of them…”…the newer translations are also based on a detailed examination of the best critical editions of the Greek manuscripts.”1 …not only this but we do not speak in the way the KJV was written and there are even a lot of words that either we dont use or use differently which makes it difficult not only for seasoned Christians but especially new converts to understand …it can be very discouraging for someone who has not been reading the Bible for years to begin with the KJV and i think its far better to give them hope with something that they understand, and is correct…if i did not think the newer versions correct i wouldnt say use them but i think they are and more so than the KJV…

            you quote 1 verse while leaving out so many…the verses before say…”For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off” …so if a woman does not have long hair she might as well cut her hair off?…(i think this point was made in the article but i digress)…also i believe Paul is specific in what women are to cover for (praying/prophesying which i believe is extended to the idea of drawing attention to herself in the assembly but that i know is my opinion) the next paragraph tells men not to cover their heads…so they shouldnt have hair?…also look at the culture….did the women not wear head coverings? what did they believe Paul was saying to them? and finally regardless of davids amazing ability to read my mind…i do not look down on women who dont wear head coverings…the congregation i grew up in had women who chose to do both and we non of us had contention on the matter …i believe, personally, that it is a matter that we are free to choose on, and i choose to do it personally because after I studied it i believed it would be pleasing to God…but after you study and pray you do what you believe is pleasing to God and that is between you and Him not you and me just as what i do is between me and Him not me and you…

            1 Komoszewski, J. Ed, James Sawyer, and Daniel Wallace.Reinventing Jesus What the Da Vinci Code and Other Novel Speculations Dont Tell You. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2006.

          • David Pendleton

            Anna,

            You’ll notice that I said, ‘their actions betray their words.”

            Look, if someone said to me, “I regularly steal other people’s property and keep it for myself, BUT I’m not a thief!” I would conclude that that person was lying. I wouldn’t need to have the ability to be keenly aware of that person’s heart and mind to conclude that he was lying. I would draw that conclusion based upon the observation that their actions betray their words. Someone that regularly steals other people’s property and keeps it for themselves is a thief. Is it judgmental of ME to conclude that person is lying if he/she insists to me that he/she is not a thief? Do I have to be keenly aware of that person’s heart in order to conclude that?

            I base my conclusions upon what I can plainly observe.

            For example, based upon the comments you just directed at me it is my conclusion that you “look down on me.” What leads me to that conclusion? Do I need to be keenly aware of your heart and mind in order to come to that conclusion? No. I come to that conclusion because you say things like “…your arrogance astounds me.” I don’t know about you, but if I hear one person say something like “…your arrogance astounds me” to another person I would only naturally conclude that the one saying “…your arrogance astounds me” is looking down on the person he/she is speaking to. I’m not quite sure how you can say something like that to someone without at the same time looking down on that person. (Just like I don’t know how someone can steal something and at the same time not be considered a thief.)

            Ergo, if one person says to another person, “I am obedient to the Word of God and I believe you are disobedient to the Word of God” then I would only naturally conclude that the person saying that is looking down on the person he/she is speaking to. I don’t think I need to have the ability to be “keenly aware” of that person’s heart and mind to conclude that. I’m honestly not sure why you think that coming to a conclusion like that is “arrogant”.

          • Anna

            david- in your previous comments you did not say that women that you observed and knew personally would allow their speach and actions to differ in regards to coverings…you said …

            “Virtually every woman that covers with a piece of fabric looks down on you. She is simply lying if she tries to deny that.”

            EVERY WOMAN …since there is no possible way that you could have watched/observed virtually “every woman that covers with a piece of fabric” then you are attempting to speak for every woman that you do not know and therefore i was correct that you were being arrogant on that score…at least in your words…because you were trying to speak for all of us, even those of us you have never met or observed and that is simply unfair.

            you also said “I suspect, though, that the women on this site who do this will adamantly deny it.”

            again attempting to speak for the woman on this site’s minds in attempt to claim outright what they would say…you did not use a personal example of someone you knew and how they acted…no sir…you generalized about woman in general who cover their heads, of which i am one, and therefore i took offense to your words because your words were arrogant…i do not look down on you but i certainly look down on what you said in your attempt to claim that “virtually all woman that covers with a piece of fabric looks down on you” and if we say otherwise you claimed we are lying …you dont speak for me so dont generalize using terms like “all woman” if you dont want to appear arrogant …you were looking down on all of us in your statement were you not? in attempting to call us liars? as if you would know better what we believe vs what we say? if not let me inform you that that is exactly how it came across so point your finger back around at yourself

          • David Pendleton

            You wrote to Hannah, “I believe, personally, that it is a matter that we are free to choose on, and I choose to do it personally because after I studied it I believed it would be pleasing to God…but after you study and pray you do what you believe is pleasing to God and that is between you and Him not you and me just as what i do is between me and Him not me and you…”

            I think that’s great. And I do think that is a good attitude to have about it. I do agree with you there. As I look back now on the specific line that you probably took issue with I see that I wrote in my previous comment to Hannah, “Virtually every woman that covers with a piece of fabric looks down on you.” You are right. I should not have said that. However, MOST of the women that I know who cover indicate that they do not see it as a matter of Christian liberty. If you look around on this site what I think you’ll primarily find are women who do NOT say that this is a matter that we are “free to choose on”. What you wrote indicates to me that you see this as a matter of “Christian Liberty”. The creator of the site himself just posted an article titled “Is Head Covering Christian Liberty or a Command.” He attempts to answer the question: Is head covering a matter of Christian liberty or is it a command that is binding on all Christians? Jeremy indicates in that article that he doesn’t believe that “it would be right to classify [head covering] as a matter of Christian liberty.”

            Jeremy indicates that wearing a fabric covering is not “optional”. According to him Christians are not at liberty to choose to not do it. According to him it is a “Biblical Command”. He further clarifies: “Being a Biblical command…means if you are convinced that it’s being interpreted correctly, you are obligated to observe it… means you can persuade and exhort others to observe it (without being legalistic).

            Of course what Jeremy really needs to unpack is how this is done in the real world. How do you insist something “must” be done (as he makes the case that the word “ought” is just as imperative as the word “must”) “without being legalistic”? Jeremy says, “I’m not suggesting a return to the old written code which we have been released from” yet what he does seem to suggest is that the “old written code” has simply been replaced by a new one. He seems to be suggesting that is the difference between the old covenant and the new covenant. One list of imperatives has simply been replaced by a new and different one.

            Finally Jeremy writes, “If [you] are convinced that a cloth covering is in view and that it is a timeless symbol, [you] are obligated to observe it and can teach and exhort others to do the same.”

            He says you “can” teach and exhort others to do the same. Is THAT a matter of Christian liberty? Is a Christian who is convinced that a cloth covering is something that is a command given by God also obligated to to exhort others to do the same or can Christians choose to not exhort others to do it?

            What you wrote here, Anna, indicates to me that you do not believe this is a “binding” command given by God. That is because you wrote “it is a matter that we are free to choose on”. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that something is a “binding command” for all Christians and at the same time say it is something that “is a matter that we are free to choose on”. So which is it to you? Is it a “binding command” that God gave or is it a matter of Christian liberty?

          • Anna

            good question…and thanks for asking =) i am in the Christian liberty category … when i studied it it felt like something I should do but i understand that it does not follow that every woman will study it and believe it is something they should do… I believe there are a lot of things that are left up to our “Christian liberty” just like when Paul talked about people eating or not eating meat sacrificed to idols…if someones conscience is affected and they go against that, that would be the only time i think sin would enter into the picture since we are told to go with our conscience, but if someones conscience is clear on the matter and they dont wear one, i personally dont have a problem with that and i dont think they are wrong. naturally im speaking for myself and have only read a few articles on the site and am not familiar with the one you wrote about… and im sorry that you have had bad experiences with woman being unkind about those who do not wear them, i think thats a shame…i think one of the biggest issues in the church today really is the fact that we find to many things to be at odds about …we are supposed to be examples to others by how we treat each other and how we love each other and often times we fail miserably because we want everything we believe or feel compelled to do to be the only way there is to do it…but that is a different topic haha…im sorry if i said anything offensive in my post to you or for sounding like i looked down on you…thanks for clarifying your post for me =)

          • David Pendleton

            Thanks, Anna. I would encourage you to read Jeremy’s article about whether this is a Christian liberty issue. He even addresses the example you gave here about eating meat sacrificed to idols, etc. That article is the most recent one posted.

            This site represents a view that is opposed to what you just expressed. I submit to you that it is sites like this that actually encourage the mentality that is expressed by the women that you rightly point out that I have had “bad experiences” with. In other words, in my opinion, sites like this actually foster and in some cases create the mentality expressed by those women.

            Again, you are right. Not ALL women who wear a covering hold your view and express it like you have. I should not have said that. It was an overstatement. But I submit that if women actually start smoking what Jeremy is selling here then it will only naturally lead to more of the “bad experiences” that you refer to.

          • JT

            David, your comments are very thought provoking. You are right, people do not always act according to their beliefs or “heart.” I hold the belief that it is better to believe what people do, not what they say. Someone can say they believe Jesus is the Messiah, but their life actions reflect a life that it is all about them. Even head coverings don’t reflect a life lived for others. I say we are to be about doing the things that mattered to Jesus. Jesus did not present himself or dress in such a way to draw attention to himself. He was outwardly focused without sticking out like a sore thumb, while still remaining holy. I find that so encouraging and fascinating.

          • JT

            You are correct. People on this blog post stream have many misspellings. It does not diminish their meanings.

          • Anna

            JT-im not sure which statement of mine you are referring to…if you could clarify that for me i would appreciate it…

          • JT

            Anna, you said, “…but yes they certainly use the ones closest to the originals because they are actually quite reliable…also misspellings does not equal a bad manuscript…misspellings are neither meaningful nor viable variants and all manuscripts have some degree of variants, even the ones used in the KJV.” That is actually not an issue worth spending time on in an argument for or against KVJ or any other version. We would all be in a bad place if we were judged on our spelling!

          • JT

            Wow. Well said. You are quite bold. Very good to be bold. We just all need to focus on Christ on not what other people are wearing on their heads!

          • David Pendleton

            Agreed. That especially goes for the people who created this blog!!

          • Kay

            You know, David, I have considered the testimony of those who cover towards those who don’t. (since you called me out for being condescending) I know there are many who take pride in their new-found, or age-old tradition that “pleases God.” They do “look down” or feel superior. But there are also many who struggle with what obedience means to them personally, and don’t want to overlook a practice that could have significance if it truly is the mind of the Lord for them. I say, if you put a covering on, and you feel proud, you probably shouldn’t wear it. If it *hurts your pride, maybe it is being done for the right reasons.

            When I first started to cover, I went to a Baptist women’s convention. I wore slacks, and when worship or study time came, pulled out a small scarf and tied it on for a covering. I stood out terribly, and felt very uncomfortable and somewhat embarrassed. It was the first time I had worn a covering outside of our own assembly, *and I was the only person wearing pants. :) I have seen more contention in the “dresses only” group than in the covering crowd. People like to feel religious, and God pleasing. It is our nature. How many feel superior because they attend meetings 3 times a week? It’s easy to find some area that someone holds up as proof that they are more godly than their neighbor. But we are all human, and without faith, it all means nothing.

        • Michael Servetus

          Hannah I only want to add that the piece of scripture that you quote does not go or belong by itself but is a part of a larger argument preceding it which is that nature teaches us something and that the lesson is that women should veil their heads because even in natures setting or naturally women show that a covering for them is appropriate. So he is saying that even if dumb nature can show you that in pictures like hieroglphyics we should be able to understand it. So he is not saying that nature already provides that which he is arguing we should have, because that would mean we already had it. It is clear he is using the natural imagery of a veil provided by hair as an illustration that we should wear the other veil. So hair is not the veil but an image or type of one.

          • Rachel

            Michael Servetus, you said “but is a part of a larger argument preceding it which is that nature teaches us something and that the lesson is that women should veil their heads because even in natures setting or naturally women show that a covering for them is appropriate.”

            What does Paul *actually say* -nature- teaches us? Without any additions or interpretations? Paul says -nature- teaches us is that it is a shame for a “man” to have “long hair” while that same “long hair” is a glory to a woman. Paul never says that a woman should veil her hair with fabric. Paul *does say* a woman’s hair is *given* to her, specifically, it is given to her *for a covering*. Below is what nature teaches according to Paul.

            “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.”

            No more, no less.

          • Michael Servetus

            Rachel, I still think you are ignoring the obvious meaning of the passage as a whole and the earliest part. Paul goes into nature amd what it teaches only as a second subservient point to butress the wearing of a covering. Its not about what nature teaches us, the point of the whole discussion is about the wearing of a covering and he talks about men covering amd uncovering their heads as well, and he is not talking about haircuts or hair, he is undeniably talking about a literal material covering. He then uses nature providing a sort of natural shadow of the image of covering through hair as a picture lesson to further support the correctness of what he is saying about the actual covering. He is not saying hair is literally a replacement for a covering bit that we can draw a lesson from it. This is obvious to me. Furthermore the practice of the church and of women throughout all ages testify to the practice of wearing veils and coverings

          • JT

            So who decides when the bible is literal and when it is figurative or symbolic?

          • Michael Servetus

            The context and plain meaning of the words are usually enough to make it obvious. Paul is not speakinghere in symbolically or figuratively but simply uses a figure. There is a difference between speakingfiguratively which would be to use words or ideas that are not the things themselves but representations as is often the case in poetry bit Paul is not speaking that way. Paul speaks literally and merely uses a illustration drawn from nature to supplement his argument.

            There is a difference between speaking figuratively and using a figure.

    • Melissa Lovesthelord Riley

      Jesus said few will make it

    • Michael Servetus

      Hannah,You would have to ask yourself why Paul wrote what he did and the way he did if the natural hair alone was the covering he spoke of, that would make it redundant. Paul was speaking of another covering and using the natural hair as an example from nature to further demonstrate that a covering is given us even in nature and so we should not find the covering our heads strange . Do you think Paul had a problem with bald women in the church? The verse you quoted above is part of a larger context and argument, you cannot take that broken off piece and make it say what you want. If you go and read the whole set of verse from the beginning of Paul’s comments I think you will find that the piece of verse you mentioned does not say what you are saying it says, because that would make the rest that goes before it nonsensical. in order to bring every piece into harmony we must take it as a whole. Lastly as was mentioned in this article, the practice of the early church confirms the correct understanding.

      • Rachel

        It is a shame for a woman to have short hair and even more of a shame for her to be bald. Both men and women have hair…but it is a *shame* for a man to have *long hair*. It is a glory for a woman to have *long hair* but a shame for it to be short…even nature tells us this. However, if a woman refuses to wear her hair long, the way God intended since He gave it to her for a covering, and she rebells and cuts it short, then she might as well go all the way and shave it all off. In the same way, Paul says that some Jews were telling Gentile believers they needed to be circumcised in order to be saved. Paul said of those who were becoming circumcised that they would just go the whole way and cut the whole thing off. Paul was being extreme. In the same way, Paul says that if a woman is going to wear her hair short she might as well go all the way and shave it all off.

        God *gave* the woman a covering—her long hair. God did not give fabric for a covering. God gave long hair for a covering…to the woman.

        I love the early church fathers and have read many of them. They are not always correct on every subject and this begins early such as with the case of amillenialism. The original teaching was pre-millennialism but as early as the 1st or 2nd century amillennialism had crept in. The point being, scripture trumps early church history and man’s interpretation of certain scriptures. In the case of head covering, we are told that a woman was given a covering, we are told that covering is long hair. Short hair is not ‘covering’, short hair would be equivalent to a man’s hair in nature. If a woman is going to have short hair, she might as well shave her hair completely off. If it is a shame for a woman to have short hair or a shaved head, then she should be covered (with long hair), which was given to her *for* a covering.

        God bless.

        • Clarice Gutmann

          Thank you Rachal You explained this so sweetly!

        • Michael Servetus

          Rachel you have tried to make the verses conform to a erroneous interpretation. Paul says a man dishonors his head if he covers it while praying or prophesying and that a woman dishonors her head if she prays or prophesies without a covering. This makes your interpretation impossible because it makes nonsense of the structure and logic. Its not like a man or woman can take long or short hair off and put it on at different times for different occasions. As I mentioned above Paul is only using illustrations and examples from nature , a woman’s long hair, as an example from nature that is analagous to drive home the point. Paul also starts the illustrative argument by saying ” doea not even mature teach you….” That would indicate that he is shifting from something unnatural(the material covering) to the natural(Long hair covering) which would be like saying does not even the example of natural long hair teach you what I am saying, women wear long hair for a reason and men customarily wear shorter hair, showing that a women with long hair is covered and it is more befitting her while short hair is considered more acceptable for a man. The reason for this? Long hair covers more and short hair covers less, showing that it is naturally considered proper for a woman to be more covered than a man. The conclusion then has to be that Paul is talking about an artificial covering

          Lastly I would say that the example of the early church I speak of is not in word though that helps but in practice. The church had obviously received the traditional practice.

          • Kay

            Another aspect given in Paul’s writing is authority. Long hair does not imply that the woman is under authority, which is the appeal of the covering in this passage. The woman is told she should have authority on her head. (or a symbol of it, as most scholars agree, both for and against a cloth covering) We know that egalitarian teaching isn’t new to the Church, but the fervent attempts to get another interpretation from this passage seem to coincide with the political movement of feminism in our nation.

      • Kay

        While I agree with a literal interpretation of the passage in 1 Cor 11, I do not agree that early Church practices make it scriptural. There are many practices that you could link to the “Church Fathers” that are not scriptural, in my understanding. However, the fact is, that throughout most of Christian history, a fabric covering of some kind was worn by women in worship.

      • Clarice Gutmann

        amen

      • Mary Silverberg

        If 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 is an answer to the
        question, Is it sinful for a woman to
        pray to God uncovered? Then the
        answer, Yes, it is sinful, and the
        covering is long hair, makes sense.

    • Mary Silverberg

      Yes, and then the question is, what other passages can’t we understand in the English.

  • Manfred Nissley

    Seriously? Go study what the words shorn and shaven mean. To infer that shorn means shaven in this verse you basically said “Paul was stupid for using the words shorn and shaven in the same verse when he did not need to.

    • http://www.gospelebooks.net/ Jeremy Gardiner

      @manfrednissley:disqus, that was the position I was critiquing. Some who hold the long hair view have suggested that to get around the problem of 1 Cor 11:6.

  • Vaughn Ohlman

    >>Finally, the fact that the church unanimously understood Paul this way until recent times is worthy of mention

    Given the context I think this would read better ‘understood Paul to mean a removable covering here…”

    • http://www.gospelebooks.net/ Jeremy Gardiner

      Great point, I’m going to make that change now.

  • Alexander Basnar

    Excellent. I once noticed, that Verses 14-15 are “further illustrations” to Paul’s chain of reasons. they are not foundational but illustrative. Now, many start reading here in the last verses and try to use these illustrations as a means to overthrow Paul’s main arguments. You would not do that with any other text.

    • Vaughn Ohlman

      I think it is more powerful than that. Reading these last verses and using them to overthrow the first also denies the very structure of the text. You have theology, command, illustration and support. It is folly to take the illustration and support and use it to overthrow the command itself.
      It should be noted, and this might take another post in and of itself, that there are two different Greek words used here, both translated ‘covering’.

  • Vaughn Ohlman

    There is a fundamental illogicality in the ‘look down’ argument. The syllogism would seem to need to be:
    Some (or all) women who wear the covering ‘look down’ on women who don’t.
    Therefore Paul could not have meant for women to wear the covering.
    The missing premise would then need to be: Paul could not have commanded anything which would allow anyone to look down on anyone else.
    But this is surely fallacious. Paul was against fornication. But surely some, indeed most, people who don’t fornication ‘look down’ on those who do?! If ‘looking down’ means ‘they don’t see it as an area of Christian liberty’.
    If nothing else is clear, the passage is clear that this is not, nor can be, an area of Christian liberty. It is grounded in a creation ordinance, and in the very heirarchy of God:Christ:Man:Woman.

  • Melissa Lovesthelord Riley

    Excellent!!!!!

  • JT

    I do appreciate the honest and healthy dialogue on this blog. I am glad christians can dialogue, discuss and disagree on things without animosity.

  • JT

    Does anyone know if it was customary for all women to wear something on their heads during the time of Jesus? It looks like that in all films I have ever seen. Was it assumed that all women were believers unless they made it very obvious, like prostitutes?

    • http://www.gospelebooks.net/ Jeremy Gardiner

      It depends on the region and the setting (worship or not). Greek men and women were uncovered in worship. Roman men were covered in worship. Corinthian women didn’t have a standard practice for public. Some covered, some did not. Jewish women covered in public and we have nothing regarding the practice of Jewish men in that time period (earliest evidence is the Talmud, but nothing near the time of Jesus/Paul despite claims to the contrary which don’t cite primary evidence). I haven’t studied Prostitutes enough during that time period but I know at least some archaeological finds show prostitues wearing a head covering. One thing is clear, having a bare head (no covering) was not a sign of being a prostitute. We’ll include all this information with sources in a future article.

  • Gabriel

    Some one posted that the early church wasn’t always right and mentioned that the original early church was premillenial but in the next century was amillenial, thus suggesting that since the church got it wrong on eschatology, they could be wrong about the head covering, too. I would point out that the apostles were anything BUT premillenial. So perhaps this makes the head covering more valid?

  • Mary Silverberg

    I thought all honor and glory belonged to God. Why would He create woman with something that
    would bring glory to herself and not to Him? This was very puzzling, and just didn’t seem right to me. Then sometime, it occurred to me that if the head covering is indeed long hair, when a woman submits to it, she brings honor to Christ, and this is why it is a glory to her, because it glorifies Christ, not because it adds physical beauty or glory to herself.

  • Zeek and Connie

    Here’s a thought, well two, that I have not read yet, well it might be in here somewhere. If a woman has hair that extends to the middle of her back does it cover her head? Obviously it does. If a women has hair that does not extend beyond her ear lobes does it cover her head? Obviously it does. So, whether her hair is long, or short, or even a military cut, if she has hair, it covers here head. Therefore all women who are not hairless on their heads (bald) are covered, so then, why the admonition from Paul to cover while praying or prophesying? Was it because there were hairless (bald) women in the congregation?

    If hair is the covering that Paul meant then does that mean any man who has hair on his head is in violation of scripture, since his head is covered . . . . with hair? Is the question: how long is long enough to be considered a covering? If so, how do we answer that from scripture?

    • http://www.gospelebooks.net/ Jeremy Gardiner

      “so then, why the admonition from Paul to cover while praying or prophesying?”

      He’s referring to a material covering in 1 Cor 11:4-13, not hair.

      “So, whether her hair is long, or short, or even a military cut, if she has hair, it covers here head.”

      I wouldn’t extend it that far. Paul says it is her “long hair” that is given to her for a covering. The word that he used for covering (different from the word he used for covering earlier) means something that is wrapped/thrown around. It’s used to refer to a coat, mantle, bedsheet etc. in it’s Greek usage inside and outside of Scripture. So the word used wouldn’t fit with a short or military cut as you can’t wrap/toss that length of hair.

      “how long is long enough to be considered a covering? If so, how do we answer that from scripture?”

      We wrote on this here: http://www.headcoveringmovement.com/articles/what-about-women-who-cant-grow-their-hair-long

      Thanks for taking time to voice your thoughts @zeekandconnie:disqus

  • Kayla Nicole

    I’ve been studying 1 Corinthians 11 for several months (and your site has helped me a lot!), but I’m still confused about it. (To be on the safe side, I’ve been wearing a headcovering until I find out.) My biggest question is the reason for headcoverings. If we should cover our hair because it’s our glory, why does 1 Cor. 11:5 say an uncovered head is the same as a shaved head? (One has glory, the other doesn’t.) Does it mean they are both unsubmissive?

    • http://www.gospelebooks.net/ Jeremy Gardiner

      Hi Kayla, the 2nd half of this article should help http://www.headcoveringmovement.com/articles/why-head-coverings-reason-3-nature (start where it says “Now to show why Paul’s question (1 Cor 11:13) was rhetorical for both him and his hearers”).

      Regarding your second statement i’m not exactly sure what you mean. Paul says a “uncovered head” is dishonorable and so is a “shaved head” (both only for women). So I’m not sure what you meant by “one has glory, the other doesn’t”. Feel free to respond back to clarify.

      • Kayla Nicole

        Thanks for the quick reply and link. What I mean is if a woman’s hair is not covered, she is showing her glory. If her head is shaved, her glory is gone. I can see why a shaved head would be a dishonor, but why is an uncovered head also a dishonor if the hair is the glory? Is it because long hair and a headcovering show our role and submission, and it would be shame not to accept our role?

        I used to believe long hair was the only covering, and thought it was for glory and submission, so I used to read 1 Cor. 11:5 and think short hair is the same as a shaved head because they’re both obviously a disgrace (for women)… that could be the reason I’m not understanding it now.